Customs duty rates are the same for all EU countries. The value added tax varies from country to country. In Italy VAT ranges from 4 to 20 percent.
Import Requirements and Documentation
The Integrated Tariff of the Community, referred to as TARIC (Tarif Intégré de la Communauté), is designed to show various rules applying to specific products being imported into the customs territory of the EU or, in some cases, when exported from it. To determine if a license is required for a particular product, check the TARIC.
The TARIC can be searched by country of origin, Harmonized System (HS) Code, and product description on the interactive website of the Directorate-General for Taxation and the Customs Union. The online TARIC is updated daily.
Many EU Member States maintain their own list of goods subject to import licensing. For example, Germany's "Import List" (Einfuhrliste) includes goods for which licenses are required, their code numbers, any applicable restrictions, and the agency that will issue the relevant license. The Import List also indicates whether the license is required under German or EU law. For information relevant to Member State import licenses, please consult the relevant Member State Country Commercial Guide.
The official model for written declarations to customs is the Single Administrative Document (SAD). European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries including Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein also use the SAD. However, other forms may be used for this purpose. Information on import/export forms is contained in Title VII, of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2454/93, which lays down provisions for the implementation of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2913/92 establishing the Community Customs Code (Articles 205 through 221). Articles 222 through 224 provide for computerized customs declarations and Articles 225 through 229 provide for oral declarations.
Additional information on import/export documentation can be found in Title III, of Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2913/92 of October 12, 1992, establishing the Community Customs Code (Articles 37 through 57). Goods brought into the customs territory of the Community are, from the time of their entry, subject to customs supervision until customs formalities are completed.
Goods presented to customs are covered by a summary declaration, which is lodged once the goods have been presented to customs. The customs authorities may, however, allow a period for lodging the declaration, which cannot be extended beyond the first working day following the day on which the goods are presented to customs. The summary declaration can be made on a form corresponding to the model prescribed by the customs authorities. However, the customs authorities may permit the use, as a summary declaration, of any commercial or official document that contains the particulars necessary for identification of the goods. It is encouraged that the summary declaration be made in computerized form.
The summary declaration is to be lodged by:
- the person who brought the goods into the customs territory of the Community or by any person who assumes responsibility for carriage of the goods following such entry; or
- the person in whose name the person referred to above acted.
Non-EU goods presented to customs must be assigned a customs-approved treatment or use authorized for such non-Community goods. Where goods are covered by a summary declaration, the formalities for them to be assigned a customs-approved treatment or use must be carried out:
- 45 days from the date on which the summary declaration is lodged in the case of goods carried by sea;
- 20 days from the date on which the summary declaration is lodged in the case of goods carried other than by sea.
Where circumstances so warrant, the customs authorities may set a shorter period or authorize an extension of the period.
The Modernized Customs Code (MCC) of the European Union is expected to be passed into law in the first half of 2008. The MCC will replace the existing Regulation 2913/92 and simplify various procedures such as introducing a paperless environment, centralized clearance, and more.
EU battery rules changed in September 2006 following the publication of the Directive on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators (Directive 2006/66). This Directive replaces the original Battery Directive of 1991 (Directive 91/157). The updated Directive applies to all batteries and accumulators put on the EU market including automotive, industrial and portable batteries. It aims to protect the environment by restricting the sale of batteries and accumulators that contain mercury or cadmium (with an exemption for emergency and alarm systems, medical equipment and cordless power tools) and by promoting a high level of collection and recycling. It places the responsibility on producers to finance the costs associated with the collection, treatment, and recycling of used batteries and accumulators. The Directive also includes provisions on the labeling of batteries and their removability from equipment. EU Member States must implement the EU Directive into their national law by September 26, 2008.
REACH is a major reform of EU chemicals policy that was adopted in December 2006 and became national law in the 27 EU Member States in June 2007. Virtually every industrial sector, from automobiles to textiles, could be affected by the new policy. REACH stands for the "Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals." As of June 1 2008, REACH will require all chemicals produced or imported into the EU in volumes above 1 ton per year to be registered with a central European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), including information on their properties, uses and safe ways of handling them. Most chemicals currently imported into the EU are eligible for preregistration which provides ECHA with basic information on the substance and allows the continued imports until a later registration deadline. ECHA will accept preregistrations from 1 June 2008 until 1 December 2008. US companies should take advantage of the pre-registration period if possible. The full registration period for chemicals which are pre-registered ranges from three to eleven years depending on the volume of the substance and its hazard properties. Substances not pre-registered must be registered to stay on the market. Chemicals of very high concern, like carcinogens, will need an authorization for use in the EU. U.S. exporters to Europe should carefully consider this piece of EU environmental legislation. Substances on that list are subject to communication requirements and may at a later stage require Authorization for the EU market.
WEEE & RoHS
EU rules on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), while not requiring specific customs or import paperwork, may entail a financial obligation for U.S. exporters. They require U.S. exporters to register the products with a national WEEE authority, or arrange for this to be done by a local partner. Similarly, related rules for EEE restricting the use of the hazardous substances (RoHS) lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, PBBs, and PBDEs, do not entail customs or importation paperwork. However, U.S. exporters may be asked by a European RoHS enforcement authority or by a customer to provide evidence of due diligence in compliance with the substance bans on a case-by-case basis.
Phytosanitary Certificates: Phytosanitary certificates are required for most fresh fruits, vegetables, and other plant materials.
Sanitary Certificates: For commodities composed of animal products or by-products, EU countries require that shipments be accompanied by a certificate issued by the competent authority of the exporting country. This applies regardless of whether the product is for human consumption, for pharmaceutical use, or strictly for non-human use (e.g., veterinary biologicals, animal feeds, fertilizers, research). Many of these certificates are uniform throughout the EU, but the harmonization process has not been finalized yet. During this transition period, certain Member State import requirements continue to apply. In addition to the legally required EU health certificates, a number of other certificates are used in international trade. These certificates, which may also be harmonized in EU legislation, certify origin for customs purposes and certain quality attributes.
Sanitary Certificates (Fisheries): In April 2006, the European Union declared the U.S. seafood inspection system as equivalent to the European one. Consequently, a specific public health certificate must accompany U.S. seafood shipments. Commission Decision 2006/199/EC places specific conditions on imports of fishery products from the U.S. Sanitary certificates for live shellfish are covered by Commission Regulation (EC) 1664/2006 and must be used for gastropods, bivalve mollusks, tunicates and echinoderms. The two competent Authorities for issuing sanitary certificates are the FDA and the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS/NOAA/USDC).
Since May 1, 2007, with the implementation of the second Hygiene Package, aquaculture products coming from the United States must be accompanied by a public health certificate according to Commission Decision 2006/199/EC and the animal health attestation included in the new fishery products certificate covered by Regulation (EC) 1664/2006. This animal health attestation is not required in the case of live bivalve mollusks intended for immediate human consumption (retail).
Material may temporarily be imported into Italy without payment of duties or tax if the material is to be used in the production or manufacture of a product that is to be exported. The importer gives a security deposit, usually in the form of a guarantee from a bank or insurance company, for the amount of the usual duties and taxes. Upon exportation of the finished product, the guarantee is released or the deposit returned.
Temporary entry of goods intended to be re-exported in the same condition is permissible free of import duties and taxes upon approval of an application by Italian Customs.
Italy participates in the International Convention to Facilitate the Importation of Commercial Samples and Advertising Materials. Samples of negligible value imported to promote sales are accorded duty-free and tax-free treatment. Prior authorization is not required. To determine whether the samples are of negligible value, their value is compared with a commercial shipment of the same product. Granting of duty-free status may require that the samples be rendered useless for future sale by marking, perforating, cutting, or other means.
Imported samples of commercial value may be granted a temporary entry with exemption from custom charges. However, a bond or cash deposit may be required as security that the goods will be removed from the country. This security is the duty and tax normally levied plus 10 percent. Samples may remain in the country for up to 1 year. They may not be sold, put to their normal use (except for demonstration purposes), or utilized in any manner for remuneration. Goods imported as samples may be imported only in quantities constituting a sample according to normal commercial usage.
Samples of products, without commercial value, are admitted free of duty and taxes. Product literature should be marked "product literature - no commercial value". Samples with commercial value are also admitted duty and tax free, provided that the following conditions are complied with:
(a) The samples are accompanied by a representative of the U.S. firm with a statement, notarized by an Italian Consulate, identifying the commercial traveler and attesting to the intention that the samples are being imported into Italy only for show or demonstration, and will be re-exported without sale.
(b) A certificate of origin from a recognized chamber of commerce is submitted to identify the source of the goods.
(c) A deposit or bond, in the amount of the applicable customs duties and taxes, is made at the point of entry. This will be refunded when the goods are re-exported.
(d) A list (in duplicate) with a full description of each sample, including weight and value, is submitted. It is helpful to have such a list in Italian.
In practice, samples valued in excess of 2,582 Euro ($3,380) are practically impossible to clear through Italian customs informally. In such cases, it is advisable to engage the services of a local freight forwarder.
As a result of various customs agreements, simplified procedures are available to U.S. business and professional people for the temporary importation of commercial samples and professional equipment. A carnet is a customs document that facilitates clearance for temporary imports of samples or equipment. With a carnet, goods may be imported without the payment of duty, tax, or additional security. The carnet also usually saves time since formalities are all arranged before leaving the United States. A carnet is usually valid for 1 year from the date of issuance. A bond or cash deposit of 40 percent of the value of the goods covered by the carnet is required, in addition to the price of the carnet. This will be forfeited in the event the products are not re-exported and duties and taxes are not paid.
Goods in Transit
Goods may clear customs with an EU transit procedure, issuing a single transit document under which the goods may be easily shipped across frontiers of the EU member states. These transit documents are completed for the importer by freight forwarders in Italy. The EU transit document provides the basis for a single, comprehensive procedure covering the goods within the EU. Since the single transit document is an EU form, the European importer, customs house broker, freight forwarder, or shipper must prepare the document at the point of entry.
Inward and Outward Processing
Inward processing is the temporary importation of raw material or products for additional manufacture or processing. Merchandise imported for additional processing and eventual re-export out of the EU is eligible for custom-free treatment.
The re-exported goods may be partly or totally processed. The import duty and taxes are levied only on those goods that are not re-exported and are finally sold in the EU. To qualify for inward processing, an Italian (or EU) firm must satisfy customs that it is necessary to use imported goods instead of EU goods; state an intention to export products manufactured from the imported goods (or equivalent goods available in the EU); and assure that, upon re-exportation, the conditions set forth in the authorization are satisfied, the exported products are accounted for, and the entered goods are identifiable and relate to specific importations.
In outward processing, a firm in Italy may export goods, for further manufacture or processing, from the EU customs area and then re-import the final product. Duties and taxes are levied only on the increased value added by the expatriate manufacturing or processing when the goods are returned to Italy, not on the total value of the product. Only firms located in Italy or other EU countries are eligible to take advantage of this option, by gaining approval of the Customs authorities.